MUSIC | The velvet vibe of Reid Kennedy


The Reid Kennedy Trio make music that’s tailor-made for rainy afternoons staring out the window and late, nightclub evenings: beautiful music that simply takes you there. Band leader Reid Kennedy drums, with bassist Graydon Peterson and keyboardist Chris Lomheim. The combination works like a charm. It doesn’t matter how good musicians may be, if they don’t feel one another, the music comes across as just so much technical skill on display—it sounds great but doesn’t really move you. When musicians mesh like these guys do, you can sit back and enjoy a velvet vibe that won’t quit.

cd release show for reflections: march 18, 9:00 p.m., artists’ quarter, 408 st. peter st., st. paul. $5.

Reid Kennedy is one of those prodigious upstarts who nail their art form early on. At 25, he’s notched a strong track record, having, in 2006, aced a national competition to win a seat drumming with the Disney All-American College Band. That resulted in a Capitol Records recording session. Then, at the Minnesota History Center, Kennedy drummed for jazz-sax great Joe Lovano’s show Celebrating Sinatra. He was invited to appear with the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota, working under the baton of contemporary classical conductor Gunther Schuller and, at famed jazz joint the Dakota, played with Grammy-nominated vocalist Ernestine Anderson.

The Reid Kennedy Trio were preceded by the quintet Snowblind (Kennedy, Adam Rossmiller, Scott Agster, Shilad Sen, Mark Drehmann), who released the albums Arctic Fury and Taking Shape. They won critical praise in the local press and received airplay on Jazz 88.

RKT’s debut CD is Reflections. The stately, suave “Far Away” is an excellent lead cut for this venture into swinging sophisticato. The bluesy ballad “Country Drive” is a must-hear. With composing chores split between Reid Kennedy and Graydon Peterson, who contributes “Inspiration,” “Zephyr,” “Jazz Braces,” and “Light Waltz,” this disc doesn’t have a single cut that you want to skip. Simply put Reflections on the box, get yourself comfortable, and let the Reid Kennedy Trio take you to a wonderfully mellow place.

Dwight Hobbes: Your instrument is drums. How do you write your melodies and choose chords? Can you just hear it in your head, then write it down? Do you go to the piano? Guitar?
Reid Kennedy: I compose at the piano.

Who are your drumming influences?
There are many drummers who have influenced me over the years. I was a big Buddy Rich fan when I was in high school. He had chops to burn and really knew how to drive a big band. I spent time listening to and transcribing Max Roach during my first few years of college, and now I am transcribing a lot of Bill Stewart. Eric Harland is another favorite of mine who I hope to study in depth as time goes on.

Word had it Snowblind broke up. What’s the story?
Snowblind are still together. There is no story behind a parting ways of that group. Our trio came together after a discussion with Graydon Peterson, my friend and bassist on this album as well as the current bassist for Snowblind. I mentioned to Graydon that I would like to be involved with a piano trio, seeing as how Snowblind had no chordal instrument. He thought that Chris would be a great candidate because of his willingness to get together and play original jazz. Chris is a tremendous fit for our trio and has helped to move us forward in numerous capacities.

Who are your composing influences?
I am inspired by good music, no matter the genre or ensemble. Some of my favorite writers include Victor Young, Dave Holland, and Pat Metheny.

What’s next?
After our CD Release at the Artists’ Quarter, it is my hope that we will continue to get together on a regular basis to play and rehearse our music. This group provides a great opportunity for the three of us to write tunes and work through them together. We have the beginnings of what might serve as repertoire for a second album, though we are in no rush to get into the studio any time soon.

Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the Daily Planet.